BRIGHTON -- At this year’s Master of Arts in Ministry Program graduation ceremony, the commencement speaker challenged graduates to change their mentalities and to fulfill their roles as lay people in the Church.
“My own area of study, research and writing for the last 20 years or so has been the theology of the laity,” said Dr. Aurelie A. Hagstrom, chair of the Department of Theology at Providence College, who gave the commencement address. “What is the vocation and mission of the laity in the Church and in the world?”
Hagstrom referenced a homily given by Pope Benedict XIV on March 7 at St. John of the Cross Parish in the diocese of Rome. In his homily, the pope told parishioners that “there is a need to change mentalities, so as to see laypeople as co-responsible for the Church, and not merely as collaborators of the clergy,” she said.
“That was a remarkable statement by our Holy Father,” Hagstrom said. “The laity are not merely collaborators of the clergy, but actually co-responsible for the being and activity of the Church,” she said. “He’s calling for a mature and dedicated laity -- such as we see here this afternoon in this graduation ceremony.”
Eight students received a Master of Arts in Ministry from St. John’s Seminary on May 26 in St. John’s Chapel. The graduates were: Jeffrey Thomas Cahill, Sr.; Louise M. Morrissey Cocuzzo; Elizabeth D. Estler; Joan McCann; Joan M. Nelson; Patricia F. Pineo; Charles E. Vernon; and Linda Walsh-French.
The Master of Arts in Ministry Program (MAM) at St. John’s Seminary is a graduate program of academic, spiritual, human and apostolic formation. It takes its inspiration from John Paul II’s document on lay formation entitled “Christifidelis Laici.”
Hagstrom ended her address by encouraging the graduates in their work and vocation. “Here, on this ‘Pentecost Wednesday,’ you graduates are part of the ‘New Pentecost’ of grace and charisms that God is pouring out on the Church of Boston,” Hagstrom said. “Thank you for saying yes to God’s invitation to co-responsibility in the mission of the Church.”
After Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley conferred the degrees upon the candidates, graduate Charles E. Vernon gave the address representing the graduates. “Jesus called out at dawn ‘Children, have you caught anything to eat?’” (John 21: 5b) Vernon said. “Much like ourselves, who have come to MAM at the dawn of the rest of our years, have we come to the shore. We have cast our net ‘to the right side,’ as they did, and having been here for some time, we have ‘filled our nets,’” he said.
In his speech, Vernon highlighted a variety of the graduates’ experiences in completing their degree requirements and illustrated how the program enhanced their faith lives and ministry skills. “In the words of St. Peter,” Vernon said, “we are always ready to give an explanation or defense to anyone who asks for a reason for our hope. And we can do so with courtesy and respect,” he said.
Vernon’s speech was followed by closing remarks and benediction from Cardinal O’Malley. “I want to say a special word to the graduates, not only of congratulations, but to thank them for being part of this program,” the Cardinal said. “We thank you for this commitment you have made to be more involved in the ministry of the Church. This is a great treasure for our Catholic community,” he said.
The MAM Program, which celebrated its 10th Anniversary this year, has conferred 95 Master’s degrees since it was founded and close to 900 people have taken courses for credit or audit, in Brighton or at one of the program’s satellite locations, program director Dr. Aldona E. Lingertat said in her opening remarks. Graduates are working and volunteering in a variety of positions in lay ministry including parish work, Catholic education, campus ministry and hospital chaplaincy.